By Jameela I. Mendoza
Spokesperson of the US Embassy Kurt Hoyer shared his insights on writing environmental articles in a forum on environmental reporting last Dec. 7 at the American Studies Resource Center.
According to Hoyer, there is “so much information” on the environment that journalists can work with.
However, Hoyer noticed that Philippine journalism has a weakness in mastering enough information for topics to be reported.
“You can tell that by the way [the press] ask questions,” said Hoyer.
Hoyer said that the press usually asked him about his reaction rather than asking for details and background on an issue.
“It’s not because there’s an unwillingness to understand, it’s because [the press] just don’t have enough information,” Hoyer added.
With the importance of background knowledge especially for environmental reporting and the large amount of information on the environment, Hoyer encouraged journalists to trace credible sources of data.
“Find the original sources if you can. If you’re talking about the sea level rising, find the people who are actually measuring sea levels,” said Hoyer.
Hoyer also explained that the environment is a topic that is connected to several issues he encountered while working as a spokesperson and press attaché.
“The subject of the environment comes up over and over again and it really is a part of our [US and the Philippines] political relationship,” said Hoyer.
Last April, Hoyer launched the Silliman University (SU) Research and Environmental News Service, a project that aims to promote awareness on environmental research and issues using articles that will be sent to local or national media.
The news service project is headed by Celia Acedo, a faculty member from the College of Mass Communication.
It is important to be aware of environmental news and issues because Acedo said that human survival depends on the environment. “The environment is everything; it sustains our life,” she said.
Anyone, such as students, can contribute their articles to the news service.
Acedo said that students can start writing about their observations on the environment. Students can also start reporting about environmental events, lectures, forums, and scientific papers in SU.
Paying attention to one’s surroundings, said Acedo, is also a way to start environmental reporting.
“[Students] can start small. That’s how everything starts; we start small then we ‘graduate’ into bigger things,” said Acedo.
Acedo added that writing environmental news is a “good training ground” for journalism because the environment “covers all other topics” such as politics, religion, culture, among others.
Citizen journalism, said Acedo, can be practiced as an avenue for citizen participation.
“You don’t have to be a journalism student to write about the environment. Anyone can write, even if they’re not students,” said Acedo.
Meanwhile, Hoyer warned reporters to be mindful of journalism ethics, since anyone report with the use of technology.
Hoyer said, “Ethics is about what’s inside you, and whether you’re going to be honest or not. That’s a fundamental thing, that’s not an issue of [journalistic] training, your moral fiber, your upbringing…and it permeates your own life and your writing and your journalism.”
A video conference with Jeremy Gustafson, office director of USAID Office of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, was also held during the forum.